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The Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey
Ch. I. 1791-93

Vol. I Contents
Early Life: I
Early Life: II
Early Life: III
Early Life: IV
Early Life: V
Early Life: VI
Early Life: VII
Early Life: VIII
Early Life: IX
Early Life: X
Early Life: XI
Early Life: XII
Early Life: XIII
Early Life: XIV
Early Life: XV
Early Life: XVI
Early Life: XVII
‣ Ch. I. 1791-93
Ch. II. 1794
Ch. III. 1794-95
Ch. IV. 1796
Ch. V. 1797
Vol. II Contents
Ch. VI. 1799-1800
Ch. VII. 1800-1801
Ch. VIII. 1801
Ch. IX. 1802-03
Ch. X. 1804
Ch. XI. 1804-1805
Vol. III Contents
Ch. XII. 1806
Ch. XIII. 1807
Ch. XIV. 1808
Ch. XV. 1809
Ch. XVI. 1810-1811
Ch. XVII. 1812
Vol. IV Contents
Ch. XVIII. 1813
Ch. XIX. 1814-1815
Ch. XX. 1815-1816
Ch. XXI. 1816
Ch. XXII. 1817
Ch. XXIII. 1818
Ch. XXIV. 1818-1819
Vol. IV Appendix
Vol. V Contents
Ch. XXV. 1820-1821
Ch. XXVI. 1821
Ch. XXVII. 1822-1823
Ch. XXVIII. 1824-1825
Ch. XXIX. 1825-1826
Ch. XXX. 1826-1827
Ch. XXXI. 1827-1828
Vol. V Appendix
Vol. VI Contents
Ch. XXXII. 1829
Ch. XXXIII. 1830
Ch. XXXIV. 1830-1831
Ch. XXXV. 1832-1834
Ch. XXXVI. 1834-1836
Ch. XXXVII. 1836-1837
Ch. XXXVIII. 1837-1843
Vol. VI Appendix
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My father has entered so fully into the history of his family and the details of his early life, that it is only needful for me to take up the thread of the narrative where he has laid it down. I cannot, however, but regret that he had not at least completed the account of his schoolboy days, and given us a little more insight into the course of his studies, feelings, and opinions, at that period, and also into
the origin of those more lasting friendships he formed during the latter part of his stay at Westminster.

But, while it may justly be regretted that he has not carried down his autobiography to a later date, it is not much to be wondered at that he found the task becoming more difficult and more painful. Recollections must have crowded upon his mind almost faster than he could arrange and relate them (as we perceive they had already done, from the many collateral histories into which he has diverged), and he was coming to that period of his life, which of all others it would have been most difficult for him accurately to record. He had, indeed, in early life often contemplated “writing the history of his own mind,” and had imagined that it would be the most pleasing and the most profitable task he could engage in; but he probably found it was more agreeable in anticipation than in reality, and when once the thread was broken, he seems neither to have found time nor inclination to resume it.

He has spoken of his early Westminster acquaintances, but he has not mentioned the two chief friendships he formed there, apparently not having come to the time when they had commenced; these were with Mr. C. W. W. Wynn, and Mr. Grosvenor Charles Bedford (late of the Exchequer), with whom he seems at school to have been on terms of the closest intimacy, and who continued through life among his most valuable friends. That even long prior to his going to Westminster, he had found his chief pleasure in his pen, and that he had both read and written largely, he has himself recorded,
Ætat. 19. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 161
and he has also mentioned his having made an unsuccessful attempt to obtain admission for one of his youthful compositions in a Westminster Magazine called “
The Trifler,” which appears to have had only a brief existence. It was not long, however, before he found an opportunity of making his first essay in print, which proved not a little unfortunate in its results. Having attained the upper classes of the school, in conjunction with several of his more particular friends, he set on foot a periodical entitled “The Flagellant,” which reached only nine numbers, when a sarcastic attack upon corporal punishment, as then inflicted, it seems, somewhat unsparingly at Westminster, roused the wrath of Dr. Vincent, the head master, who immediately commenced a prosecution for libel against the publisher.

This seems to have been a harsh and extraordinary proceeding; for the master’s authority, judiciously exercised, might surely have controlled or stopped the publication; neither was there any thing in the paper itself which ought to have made a wise man angry; like most of the others, it is merely a schoolboy’s imitation of a paper in the Spectator or Rambler. A letter of complaint from an unfortunate victim to the rod is supposed to have been called forth by the previous numbers, and the writer now comments on this, and enters into a dissertation on flogging with various quotations, ascribing its invention to the author of all evil. The signature was a feigned one; but my father immediately acknowledged himself the writer, and reluctantly apologised. The Doctor’s
wrath, however, was not to be appeased, and he was compelled to leave the school.

Having quitted Westminster under these untoward circumstances early in the spring of the year 1792, he remained until the close of it as usual with his aunt. Miss Tyler, in the College Green, Bristol; and there, partly from want of regular employment and society, partly from his naturally excitable disposition, we find him in every imaginable mood of mind; now giving way to fits of despondency, revolving first one scheme of future life and then another, and again brightening up under the influence of a buoyant and happy temper, continually writing verses, and eager again to come before the public as an author, despite the unfortunate issue of his first attempt.

The Flagellant is gone,” he writes at this time to his schoolfellow and coadjutor in that luckless undertaking, Mr. Grosvenor Bedford; “still, however, I think that our joint productions may acquire some credit. The sooner we have a volume published the better; ‘The Medley,’ ‘The Hodge Podge,’ ‘The What-do-you-call-it,’ or, to retain our old plan, ‘Monastic Lucubrations;’ any of these, or any better you may propose, will do. Shall we dedicate it to Envy, Hatred, and Malice, and all Uncharitableness? Powerful arbitrators of the minds of men, who have already honoured us with your marked attention, ye who can convert innocence into treason, and, shielded by the arm of power, remain secure, &c. &c. &c.; or shall we dedicate it to the doctor, or to the devil, or to the king, or to ourselves?—Gentlemen, to you in whose breasts neither envy nor malice can find a
Ætat. 19. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 163
place, who will not be biassed by the clamours of popular prejudice, nor stoop to the authority of ignorance and power, &c. &c.

“I see no reason why we should not publish pretty soon; it will be at least four months before we can prepare it for the press, and, surely, by that time we may venture again upon the world.
“. . . . We have ventured,
Like little wanton boys that swim on bladders,
These last nine numbers in a sea of glory,
But far above our depth; the high blown bubble
At length burst under us, and now has left us
(Yet smarting from the rod of persecution
Though yet unwearied) to the merciless rage
Of the rude sea that swallowed Number Five.”

These boyish schemes, however, were not to be carried into effect; and “the wreck of his father’s affairs,” to which he has alluded in the Autobiography, taking place at this time, he was occupied for a while by some of the more painful realities of life. “Since my last,” he writes again to Mr. Bedford, “I have been continually going backwards and forwards upon business, which would not allow me to fix sufficient attention upon anything else. It is now over. I have time to look about me; I hope with fairer prospects for the future. One of my journeys was to my father’s brother at Taunton, to request him to assist my father to recover that situation into which the treachery of his relations and injustice of his friends had thrown him. I had never seen this uncle, and you may guess how unpleasant so humiliating an errand must prove to so proud a spirit. He was absent: I left a letter, and two days ago received an answer and a refusal. Fortunately
my aunt had prevented the necessity; but her goodness does not extenuate his unnatural parsimony. He is single, and possessed of property to the amount of 100,000l., without a child to provide for: that part of his fortune which he inherited must one day be mine; it will, I hope, enable me to despise the world and live independent.”*

But his father’s health was now completely broken by his misfortunes: he sank rapidly; and my father having gone up to matriculate at Oxford, was only recalled in time to follow him to the grave.

It had been intended that he should enter at Christ Church, and his name had been put down there for some time; but the dean (Cyril Jackson), having heard of the affair of the Flagellant, refused to admit him, doubtless supposing he would prove a troublesome and disaffected undergraduate, and little dreaming the time would come when the University would be proud to bestow on him her highest honours.

Having been rejected at Christ Church he entered at Balliol College†, and returned to his home at Miss Tyler’s, to remain there till the time when his residence at Oxford should commence. The following letter will illustrate sufficiently his character at this period.

* Oct. 21. 1792.

† The following is extracted from the Register of Admissions at Balliol College:—

“Termino Michaelis, 1792. Nov. 3.
Robertus Southey Filius natu maximus Roberti Southey
Generosi de Civitate Bristol; Admissus est

Ætat. 19. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 165
To Grosvenor C. Bedford, Esq.
(With a rude sketch of a church.)

I doubt not but you will be surprised at my sending a church neither remarkable for beauty of design or neatness of execution. Waiving, however, all apologies for either, if you are disposed at some future time to visit the ‘Verdant House’ of your friend when he shall be at supper,—‘not when he eats, but when he is eaten,’—you will find it on the other side of this identical church. The very covering of the vault affords as striking an emblem of mortality as would even the mouldering tenant of the tomb. Yesterday, I know not from what strange humour, I visited it for the second time in my life; the former occasion was mournful, and no earthly consideration shall ever draw me there upon a like. My pilgrimage yesterday was merely the result of a meditating moment when philosophy had flattered itself into apathy. I am really astonished when I reflect upon the indifference with which I so minutely surveyed the heaving turf, which inclosed within its cold bosom ancestors upon whom fortune bestowed rather more of her smiles than she has done upon their descendants,—men who, content with an independent patrimony, lay hid from the world too obscure to be noticed by it, too elevated to fear its insult. Those days are past. Three Edward Hills there sleep for ever. I send the epitaph which, at
present, is inscribed upon one of the cankered sides: perhaps the production of some one of my forefathers, who possessed more piety than poetry:—
‘Farwell this world
With all Its Vanity;
We hope, through Christ,
To live eternally.’

“You have the exact orthography, and the inscription will probably cover the remains of one who has written so much for others, and must be content with so humble an epitaph himself, unless you will furnish him with one more characteristical.

“Were you to walk over the village (Ashton) with me, you would, like me, be tempted to repine that I have no earthly mansion here,—it is the most enchanting spot that nature can produce. My rambles would be much more frequent, were it not for certain reflections, not altogether of a pleasant nature, which always recur. I cannot wander like a stranger over lands which once were my forefathers’, nor pass those doors which are now no more open, without feeling emotions altogether inconsistent with pleasure and irreconcileable with the indifference of philosophy.

“What is there, Bedford, contained in that word of such mighty virtue? it has been sounded in the ear of common sense till it is deafened and overpowered with the clamour. Artifice and vanity have reared up the pageant, science has adorned it, and the multitude have beheld at a distance and adored; it is applied indiscriminately to vice and virtue, to the exalted ideas of Socrates, the metaphysical charms of Plato, the frigid maxims of Aristotle, the unfeeling dictates of the Stoics, and the disciples of the
Ætat. 19. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 167
Epicurus. Rousseau was called a philosopher whilst he possessed sensibility the most poignant. Voltaire was dignified with the name when he deserved the blackest stigma from every man of principle. Whence all this seeming absurdity? or why should reason be dazzled by the name when she cannot but perceive its imbecility?

“So far I wrote last night; upon running it over, I think you will fancy you have a rhapsody for the Flagellant instead of a letter; and really, had I continued it in the same mood, it would have been little different. If I had any knowledge of drawing, I would send you some of the most pleasing views you can conceive, whether rural, melancholy, pleasing, or grand. At some future period I hope to show you the place, and you will then judge whether I have praised it too lavishly. . . . . In the course of next summer the Duke of Portland will be installed at Oxford: the spectacle is only inferior to a coronation. I have rooms there, and am glad of the opportunity to offer them to you. We are permitted to have men in college upon the occasion: the whole university makes up the procession. It will be worth seeing, as perhaps coronations, like the secular games, will soon be as a tale that is told.

“Within this half hour I have received a letter from my uncle at Lisbon, chiefly upon a subject which I have been much employed upon since March 1. I will show it you when we meet. It is such as I expected from one who has been to me more than a parent: without asperity, without reproaches. . . . . To-morrow I answer it, and, as he has desired, send
him the
Flagellant. I then hope to drop the subject for ever in this world; in the next all hearts are open, and no man’s intentions are hid.

“I can now tell you one of the uses of philosophy: it teaches us to search for applause from within, and to despise the flattery and the abuse of the world alike; to attend only to an inward monitor; to be superior to fortune: why, then, is the name so prostituted? Do give me a lecture upon philosophy, and teach me how to become a philosopher. The title is pretty, and surely the philosophic S. would sound as well as the philosophic Hume or the philosopher of Ferney. Would it not be as truly applied? I am loth to part with my poor Flagellants; they have cost me very dear, and perhaps I shall never see them more.* One copy ought to be preserved, in order to contradict the inventions of future malice. Are you not ashamed of your idleness?

R. Southey.”

“P.S. If I can one day have the honour of writing after my name Fellow of Balliol College, that will be the extent of my preferment. Sometimes I am tempted to think that I was sent into this world for a different employment; but, as the play says, beware of the beast that has three legs. Now, Bedford, as you might long puzzle to discover the genus of the beast, know that his grasp is always mortal, that—in short

* This proved to be the case:—he never saw the latter numbers of the Flagellant again. Mr. Hill preserved the copy which had been sent to him, but in after years kept it carefully from my father’s knowledge, thinking he would destroy it. This copy is now before me, and is, perhaps, the only one in existence.

Ætat. 19. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 169
(here follows a sketch). But, as that drawing wants explanation as much, if not more, than the description, know it is—the gallows.

“About the 17th of January I begin my residence at Oxford, where the prime of my life is to pass in acquiring knowledge; which, when I begin to have some ideas of, it will be cut short by the Doctor, who levels all ranks and degrees. Is it not rather disgraceful, at the moment when Europe is on fire with freedom—when man and monarch are contending—to sit and study Euclid or Hugo Grotius? As Pindar says, a good button-maker is spoilt in making a king; what will be spoilt when I am made a fellow of Balliol? That question I cannot resolve, I can only say I have spoilt a sheet of paper, and you fifteen minutes in reading it.

“N.B. If you do not soon answer it, you will spoil my temper.”

My father went up to reside at Balliol in January, 1793, being at this time ill suited to a college life both by his feelings and opinions. “My prepossessions,” he writes, “are not very favourable; I expect to meet with pedantry, prejudice, and aristocracy, from all which good Lord deliver poor Robert Southey.”* And almost immediately on his arrival:—“Behold me, my friend, entered under the banners of science or stupidity,—which you please,—and, like a recruit got sober, looking to the days that are past, and feeling something like regret. Would

* To Grosvenor C. Bedford, Dec. 1792.

you think it possible that the wise founders of an English university should forbid us to wear boots!* What matters it whether I study in shoes or boots? to me it is matter of indifference; but folly so ridiculous puts me out of conceit with the whole. When the foundation is bad, the fabric must be weak. None of my friends are yet arrived, and as for common acquaintance I do not wish for them. Solitude I do not dislike, for I fear it not; but there is a certain demon called Reflection that accompanies it, whose arrows, though they rankle not with the poison of guilt, are yet pointed by melancholy. I feel myself entered upon a new scene of life, and, whatever the generality of Oxonians conceive, it appears to me a very serious one. Four years hence I am to be called into orders, and during that time (short for the attainment of the requisite knowledge) how much have I to learn! I must learn to break a rebellious spirit, which neither authority nor oppression could ever bow; it would be easier to break my neck. I must learn to work a problem instead of writing an ode. I must learn to pay respect to men remarkable only for great wigs and little wisdom.Ӡ

He was indeed but little disposed to pay much deference either to the discipline or the etiquette of the College. It was usual for all the members to have their hair regularly dressed and powdered according to the prevailing fashion, and the College barber waited upon the “freshmen” as a matter of course.

* This law belongs to Balliol College, and is still, or was very lately, in force.

† To Grosvenor C. Bedford, Esq., Jan. 16. 1793.

Ætat. 19. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 171
My father, however, peremptorily refused to put himself under his hands; and I well remember his speaking of the astonishment depicted in the man’s face, and of his earnest remonstrances, on the impropriety he was going to commit in entering the dining hall with his long hair*, which curled beautifully, in its primitive state. A little surprise was manifested at first, but the example was quickly followed by others.

It does not appear what particular course of reading he pursued while at the University; but one of his college friends declares that he was a perfect “helluo librorum” then as well as throughout his life; and among his diversified writings there is abundant evidence that he had drunk deeply both of the Greek and Latin poets.

His letters, which at this time seem to have been exercises in composition, give evidence of his industry, and at the same time indicate a mind imbued with heathen philosophy and Grecian republicanism. They are written often in a style of inflated declamation, which, as we shall see, before many years had passed, subsided into a more natural and tranquil tone under the influence of his matured taste.

A few of these are here laid before the reader.

To G. C. Bedford, Esq.
“Friday, Jan. 25. 1793, 6 in the evening.

“Such is the hour when I begin this letter,—when it will be finished is uncertain: expecting Wynn to

* There is a portrait of my father engraved in Mr. Cottle’s Reminiscences, which shows the long hair, &c.

drink tea with me every moment, I have not patience to wait without employment, and know of none more agreeable than that of writing to you. My Mentor, while he prohibits my wanting, must nevertheless allow an exception in your favour; and believe me I look upon it as one great proof of my own reformation, or whatever title you may please to give, when I can pass a whole week without composing one word. Over the pages of the philosophic
Tacitus the hours of study pass as rapidly as even those which are devoted to my friends, and I have not found as yet one hour which I could wish to have employed otherwise: this is saying very much in praise of a collegiate life; but remember that a mind disposed to be happy will find happiness everywhere; and why we should not be happy is beyond my philosophy to account for. Heraclitus certainly was a fool, and, what is much more rare, an unhappy one. I never yet met with any fool who was not pleased with the idea of his own sense; but for your whimpering sages, let sentiment say what it will, they are men possessed with more envy than wisdom.”

To G. C. Bedford, Esq.
“Saturday, Feb. 12., 5 in the morning.

“Now, Bedford, this is more than you would do for me,—quit your bed after only five hours’ rest, light a fire, and then write a letter; really I think it would not have tempted me to rise unless assisted by other inducements. To-day I am going to walk to Abingdon with three men of this college; and having made the pious resolution (your good health in a glass of
Ætat. 19. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 173
red negus) of rising every morning at five to study, that the rest of the day may be at my own disposal, I procured an alarum clock and a tinder-box. This morning was the first. I rose, called up a neighbour, and read about three hundred lines of
Homer, when I found myself hungry; the bread and cheese were called in as auxiliaries, and I made some negus: as I spiced it my eye glanced over the board, and the assemblage seemed so curious that I laid all aside for your letter,—a lexicon, Homer, inkstand, candles, snuffers, wine, bread and cheese, nutmeg grater, and hour-glass. But I have given up time enough to my letter, the glass runs fast, and for once the expression is not merely figurative.


“How rapidly does Time hasten on when his wings are not clogged by melancholy! Perhaps no human being ever more forcibly experienced this than myself; often have I counted the hours with impatience when, tired of reflection and all her unpleasant train, I wished to forget myself in sleep. Now I allow but six hours to my bed, and every morning before the watchman rises, my fire is kindled and my bed cold: this is practical philosophy—but every thing is valued by comparison, and when compared with my neighbour, I am no philosopher. Two years ago Seward drank wine, and eat butter and sugar; now, merely from the resolution of abridging the luxuries of life, water is his only drink, tea and dry bread his only breakfast. In one who professed philosophy this would be only practising its tenets, but it is quite different with Seward. To the most odd and uncommon ap-
pearance he adds manners, which, as one gets accustomed to them are the most pleasing. At the age of fourteen he began learning, and the really useful knowledge he possesses must be imputed to a mind really desirous of improvement. ‘Do you not find your attention flag?’ I said to him as he was studying
Hutchinson’s Moral Philosophy in Latin. ‘If our tutors would but make our studies interesting we should pursue them with pleasure.’ ‘Certainly we should,’ he replied; ‘but I feel a pleasure in studying them because I know it is my duty.’ This I take to be true philosophy, of that species which tends to make mankind happy, because it first makes them good. We had verses here upon the 30th of January to the memory of Charles the Martyr. It is a little extraordinary that you should quote those very lines to poor Louis which I prefixed to my ode: ‘His virtues plead like angels, trumpet-tongued, against the deep damnation of his taking off.’ . . . . Morose austerity and stern enthusiasm are the characteristics of superstition; but what is in reality more cheerful or happy than Religion? I have in my own knowledge more than one instance of this, and doubt not you have likewise. Ought not, therefore, that wretch who styles himself a philosopher to be shunned like pestilence, who, because Christianity has to him no allurement, seeks to deprive the miserable of their only remaining consolation? . . . . I keep a daily journal for myself, as an account of time which I ought to be strict in; but this being only destined for my own eye, is uninteresting and unimportant. Boswell might compile a few quartos from the loose memorandums,
Ætat. 19. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 175
but they would tire the world more than he has already done. Twenty years hence this journal will be either a source of pleasure or of regret; that is, if I live twenty years, and for life I have really a very strong predilection; not from
Shakspeare’s fearfully beautiful passage:—‘Aye, but to die and go we know not whither,’ but from the hope that my life may be serviceable to my family, and happy to myself; if it be the longer life the better, existence will be delightful, and anticipation glorious. The idea of meeting a different fate in another world is enough to overthrow every Atheistical doctrine. The very dreadful trials under which virtue so often labours must surely be only trials; patience will withstand the pressure, and faith will lead to hope. Religion soothes every wound and makes the bed of death a couch of felicity. Make the contrast yourself: look at the warrior, the hypocrite, and the libertine, in their last moments, and reflection must strengthen every virtuous resolution. May I, however, practise what I preach. Let me have 200l. a year and the comforts of domestic life, and my ambition aspires not further.

Most sincerely yours,
Robert Southey.”
To G. C. Bedford, Esq.
“March 16. 1793.

“I am now sitting without fire in a cold day, waiting for Wynn to go upon the Isis, ‘silver-slippered queen,’ as Warton calls her; the epithet may be
classical, but it certainly is ridiculous. Of all poetical figures the prosopopoeia is that most likely to be adopted by a savage nation, and which adds most ornament, but not to composition; but in the name of common sense, what appropriate idea does ‘silver-slippered’ convey?
Homer’s Χρυσοπέδιλος* probably alludes to some well-known statue so habited. Nature is a much better guide than antiquity.


“On the water I went yesterday, in a little skiff, which the least deviation from the balance would overset. To manage two oars and yet unable to handle one!† My first setting off was curious. I did not step exactly in the middle, the boat tilted up, and a large barge from which I embarked alone saved me from a good ducking; my arm, however, got completely wet. I tugged at the oar very much like a bear in a boat; or, if you can conceive any thing more awkward, liken me to it, and you will have a better simile. . . . . When I walk over these streets what various recollections throng upon me, what scenes fancy delineates from the hour when Alfred first marked it as the seat of learning! Bacon’s study is demolished, so I shall never have the honour of being killed by its fall; before my window Latimer and Ridley were burnt, and there is not even a stone to mark the place where a monument should be erected

* “Άργυρόπεζα” would have been nearer the mark. Warton was imitating Milton, who uses the term “tinsel-slippered.”

† My father used to say he learned two things only at Oxford,—to row and to swim.

Ætat. 19. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 177
to religious liberty. . . . . I have walked over the ruins of Godstow Nunnery with sensations such as the site of Troy or Carthage would inspire; a spot so famed by our minstrels, so celebrated by tradition, and so memorable in the annals of legendary, yet romantic truth. Poor Rosamond! some unskilful impostor has painted an epitaph upon the chapel wall, evidently within this century; the precise spot where she lies is forgotten, and the traces are still visible of a subterranean passage—perhaps the scene of many a deed of darkness; but we should suppose the best:—surely amongst the tribe who were secluded from the world, there may have been some whose motives were good among so many victims of compulsion and injustice. Do you recollect
Richardson’s plan for Protestant nunneries?* To monastic foundations I have little attachment; but were the Colleges ever to be reformed (and reformation will not come before it is wanted), I would have a little more of the discipline kept up. Temperance is much wanted; the waters of Helicon are far too much polluted by the wine of Bacchus ever to produce any effect. With respect to its superiors, Oxford only exhibits waste of wigs and want of wisdom; with respect to undergraduates, every species of abandoned excess.

* “Considering the condition of single women in the middle classes, it is not speaking too strongly to assert that the establishment of Protestant nunneries upon a wide plan, and liberal scale, would be the greatest benefit that could possibly be conferred upon these kingdoms. The name, indeed, is deservedly obnoxious, for nunneries, such as they exist in Roman Catholic countries, and such as at this time are being re-established in this, are connected with the worst corruptions of popery, being only nurseries of superstition and of misery.”—Southey’s Colloquies, vol. i. p. 338.

As for me, I regard myself too much to run into the vices so common and so destructive. I have not yet been drunk, nor mean to be so. What use can be made of a collegiate life I wish to make; but in the midst of all, when I look back to
Rousseau, and compare myself either with his Emilius or the real pupil of Madame Brulenck, I feel ashamed and humbled at the comparison. Never shall child of mine enter a public school or a university. Perhaps I may not be able so well to instruct him in logic or languages, but I can at least preserve him from vice.

Yours sincerely,
Robert Southey.”
To Charles Collins, Esq.
“Ledbury, Herefordshire; Easter Sunday, 1793.

“Had I, my dear Collins, the pen of Rousseau, I would attempt to describe the various scenes which have presented themselves to me, and the various emotions occasioned by them. On Wednesday morning, about eight o’clock, we sallied forth. My travelling equipage consisted of my diary, writing-book, pen, ink, silk handkerchief, and Milton’s Defence. We reached Woodstock to breakfast, where I was delighted with reading the Nottingham address for peace. Perhaps you will call it stupidity which made me pass the very walls of Blenheim, without turning from the road to behold the ducal palace: perhaps it was so; but it was the stupidity of a democratic philosopher who had appointed a day in summer for the purpose. . . . . Evesham Abbey detained me
Ætat. 19. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 179
some time: it was here where
Edward defeated and slew Simon de Montfort. Often did I wish for your pencil, for never did I behold so beautiful a pile of ruins. I have seen the Abbeys of Battle and Malmsbury, but this is a complete specimen of the simple Gothic: a tower, quite complete, fronts the church, whose roof is dropping down, and admits through the chasm the streaming light,—the high pointed window frames, where the high grass waves to the lonely breeze,—and that beautiful moss, which at once ornaments and carpets the monastic pile, rapt me to other years. I recalled the savage sons of superstition, I heard the deep toned mass, and the chaunted prayer for those that fell in fight; but fancy soon recurred to a more enchanting scene,—‘The Blind Beggar of Bethnal Green and his Daughter’: you know how intimately connected with this now mouldering scene that ballad is. Over this abbey I could detain you, Collins, for ever,—so many, so various, are the reveries it caused. We reached Worcester to dinner the second day. . . . . Here we staid three days; and I rode with Mr. Severn to Kidderminster, with intent to breakfast at ——, but all the family were out. We returned by Bewdley; there is an old mansion, once Lord Herbert’s, now mouldering away, in so romantic a situation, that I soon lost myself in dreams of days of yore,—the tapestried room—the listed fight—the vassal-filled hall—the hospitable fire—the old baron and his young daughter;—these formed a most delightful day-dream. How horrid it is to wake into common life from these scenes! at a moment when you are transported to
happier times to descend to realities! Could these visions last for ever! Yesterday we walked twenty-five miles over Malvern Hills to Ledbury, to
Seward’s brothers; here I am before breakfast, and how soon to be interrupted I know not. Believe me, I shall return reluctantly to Oxford; these last ten days seem like years to look back—so crowded with different pictures. . . . . This peripatetic philosophy pleases me more and more; the twenty-six miles I walked yesterday neither fatigued me then nor now. Who, in the name of common sense, would travel stewed in a leathern box when they have legs, and those none of the shortest, fit for use? What scene can be more calculated to expand the soul than the sight of nature, in all her loveliest works? We must walk over Scotland; it will be an adventure to delight us all the remainder of our lives: we will wander over the hills of Morven, and mark the driving blast, perchance bestrodden by the spirit of Ossian.”

On his return to Balliol he writes to another friend thus characteristically, affording a curious picture of his own mind at this time.

“My philosophy, which has so long been of a kind peculiar to myself—neither of the school of Plato, Aristotle, Westminster, or the Miller—is at length settled: I am become a peripatetic philosopher. Far, however, from adopting the tenets of any self-sufficient cynic or puzzling sophist, my sentiments will be found more enlivened by the brilliant
Ætat. 19. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 181
colours of fancy, nature, and
Rousseau than the positive dogmas of the Stagyrite, or the metaphysical refinements of his antagonist. I aspire not to the honorary titles of subtle disputant or divine doctor, I wish to found no school, to drive no scholars mad: ideas rise up with the scenes I view; some pass away with the momentary glance, some are engraved upon the tablet of memory, and some impressed upon the heart. You have told me what philosophy is not, and I can give you a little more information upon the subject. It is not reading Johannes Secundus because he may have some poetical lines; it is not wearing the hair undressed, in opposition to custom perhaps (this I feel the severity of, and blush for); it is not rejecting Lucan lest he should vitiate the taste, and reading without fear what may corrupt the heart; it is not clapt on with a wig, or communicated by the fashionable hand of the barber. It had nothing to do with Watson when he burnt his books; it does not sit upon a woolsack; honour cannot bestow it, persecution cannot take it away. It illumined the prison of Socrates, but fled the triumph of Octavius: it shrank from the savage murderer, Constantine; it dignified the tent of Julian. It has no particular love for colleges; in crowds it is alone, in solitude most engaged; it renders life agreeable, and death enviable. . . . I have lately read the ‘Man of Feeling:’ if you have never yet read it, do now from my recommendation; few works have ever pleased me so painfully or so much. It is very strange that man should be delighted with the highest pain that, can be produced. I even begin to think
that both pain and pleasure exist only in idea. But this must not be affirmed; the first twinge of the toothache, or retrospective glance, will undeceive me with a vengeance.

“Purity of mind is something like snow, best in the shade. Gibraltar is on a rock, but it would be imprudent to defy her enemies, and call them to the charge. My heart is equally easy of impression with that of Rousseau, and perhaps more tenacious of it. Refinement I adore, but to me the highest delicacy appears so intimately connected with it, that the union is like body and soul.”

And again, a few weeks afterwards, he says, in reference to some observations which had been made as to his not sufficiently cultivating his abilities: “Wynn accuses me of want of ambition; the accusation gave me great pleasure. He wants me to wish distinction, and to seek it. I want it not, I wish it not. The abilities which nature gave me, which fashion has not cramped, and which vanity often magnifies, are never neglected. I will cultivate them with diligence, but only for my friends; if I can bring myself sometimes to their remembrance, I have attained the ne plus ultra of my ambition.”

The early part of the long vacation was spent in an excursion into Herefordshire to visit a college friend. “Like the Wandering Jew,” he writes from thence, “you see I am here and there, and every where; now tramping it to Worcester, now peripateticating it to Cambridge, and now an equestrian in

* To G. C. Bedford, May 6. 1793.

Ætat. 19. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 183
the land of cyder,—traversing the shores of the Wye, and riding listlessly over the spot where Ariconium stood, walking above the dusty tombs of my progenitors in the cathedral.”*

In the following month (August) he went to visit his old schoolfellow and constant correspondent, Mr. Grosvenor Bedford, who then resided with his parent at Brixton Causeway, four miles on the Surrey side of the metropolis; and there, the day after completing his nineteenth year, he resumed, and, in six weeks, completed, his poem of Joan of Arc, the subject of which had been previously suggested to him in conversation with Mr. Bedford, and of which he had then written above three hundred lines. In one of the prefaces to the collected edition of his poems, he says, “My progress would not have been so rapid had it not been for the opportunity of retirement which I enjoyed there, and the encouragement I received. Tranquil, indeed, the place was, for the neighbourhood did not extend beyond half a dozen families, and the London style and habits of life had not obtained among them. Uncle Toby might have enjoyed his rood and a half of ground there, and not have had it known. A forecourt separated the house from the footpath and the road in front; behind these was a large and well-stocked garden, with other spacious premises, in which utility and ornament were in some degree combined. At the extremity of the garden, and under the shade of four lofty Linden trees, was a

* To Grosvenor C. Bedford, July 31. 1793.

summer house, looking on an ornamented grass plat, and fitted up as a conveniently habitable room. That summer-house was allotted to me, and there my mornings were passed at the desk.”

Three months were most happily spent here in various amusements and occupations, of which writing Joan of Arc was the chief: but the poetical bow was not always bent; a war of extermination was carried on against the wasps, which abounded in unwonted numbers, and which they exercised their skill in shooting with horse-pistols loaded with sand, the only sort of sporting, I have heard my father say, he ever attempted.

The following amusing letter was written soon after this visit.

To Grosvenor Charles Bedford, Esq.
“Bristol, Oct. 26. 1793.

“Never talk to me of obstinacy, for contrary to all the dictates of sound sense, long custom, and inclination, I have spoilt a sheet of paper by cutting it to the shape of your fancy. Accuse me not of irascibility, for I wrote to you ten days back, and though you have never vouchsafed me an answer, am now writing with all the mildness and goodness of a philosopher.

“Call me Job, for I am without clothes, expecting my baggage from day to day; and much as I fear its loss unrepining, own I am modest in assuming no merit for all these good qualities. Know then, most indolent of mortals, that my baggage is not yet ar-
Ætat. 19. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 185
rived, that I am fearful of its safety, and yet less troubled than all the rest of the family, who cry out loudly upon my puppet-show dress, and desire I will write to inquire concerning it. . . . .

“Now I am much inclined to fill this sheet, and that with verse, but I will punish myself to torment you: you shall have half a prose letter. The College bells are dinning the King’s proclamation in my ear, the linings of my breeches are torn, you are silent, and all this makes me talkative and angrily communicative; so that had you merited it, you would have received such a letter,—so philosophic, poetical, grave, erudite, amusing, instructive, elegant, simple, delightful, simplex munditiis,—in short, το αγαθον και το αριστον, το βελτιστον—such a letter, Grosvenor, full of odes, elegiacs, epistles, monodramas, comodramas, tragodramas, all sorts of dramas, though I have not tasted spirits to-day. Don’t think me drunk, for if I am, ’tis with sobriety; and I certainly feel most seriously disposed to be soberly nonsensical. Now you wish I would dispose my folly to a short series; which sentence if you comprehend, you will do more than I can. You must not be surprised at nonsense, for I have been reading the history of philosophy, the ideas of Plato, the logic of Aristotle, and the heterogeneous dogmas of Pythagoras, Antisthenes, Zeno, Epicurus, and Pyrrho, till I have metaphysicized away all my senses, and so you are the better for it. . . . .

“Now good night! Egregious nonsense, execrably written, is all you merit. O my clothes! O Joan!”*

* The first MS. of Joan of Arc was in his baggage.

“Sunday morning.

“Now my friend, whether it be from the day itself, from the dull weather, or from the dream of last night, I know not, but I am a little more serious than when I laid down the pen. My baggage makes me very uneasy: the loss of what is intrinsically worth only the price of the paper would be more than ever I should find time, or perhaps ability, to repair; and even supposing some rascal should get them and publish them, I should be more vexed than at the utter loss. Do write immediately. I direct to you that you may have this the sooner. Inform me when you receive it, and with what direction. It is almost a fortnight since I left Brixton, and I am equipped in such old shirts, stockings, and shoes, as have been long cast off, and have lost all this time, in which I should have transcribed half of Joan. . . . .

“Of the various sects that once adorned the republic of Athens, to me that of Epicurus, whilst it maintained its original purity, appears most consonant to human reason. I am not speaking of his metaphysics and atomary system; they are (as all cosmogonies must be) ridiculous; but of that system of ethics and pleasure combined, which he taught in the garden. When the philosopher declared that the ultimate design of life is happiness, and happiness consists in virtue, he laid the foundation of a system which might have benefited mankind; his life was the most temperate, his manner the most affable, displaying that urbanity which cannot fail of attracting esteem. Plotinus, a man memorable for corrupting philosophy, was in
Ætat. 19. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 187
favour with
Gallienus, with whose imperial qualifications you are well acquainted: the enthusiast requested his royal highness would give him a ruined city in Campania, which he might rebuild and people with philosophers, governed by the laws of Plato, and from whom the city should be called Platonopolis. Gallienus, who was himself an elegant scholar, was pleased with the plan, but his friends dissuaded him from the experiment. The design would certainly have proved impracticable in that declining and degenerate age—most probably in any age; new visionary enthusiasts would have been continually arising, fresh sects formed, and each would have been divided and subdivided till all was anarchy. Yet I cannot help wishing the experiment had been tried; it could not have been productive of evil, and we might at this period have received instruction from the history of Platonopolis. Under the Antonines or under Julian the request would have been granted; despotism is perhaps a blessing under such men. . . . . I could rhapsodise most delightfully upon this subject; plan out my city—her palaces, her hovels—all simplex munditiis (my favourite quotation); but if you were with me, Southeyopolis would soon be divided into two sects; whilst I should be governing with Plato (correcting a few of Plato’s absurdities with some of my own), and almost deifying Alcaeus, Lucan, and Milton, you (as visionary as myself) would be dreaming of Utopian kings possessed of the virtue of the Antonines, regulated by peers every one of whom should be a Falkland, and by a popular assembly where
every man should unite the integrity of a
Cato, the eloquence of a Demosthenes, and the loyalty of a Jacobite.

Yours most sincerely,
R. S.”

For some reason which does not appear, he did not reside during the following term at Balliol, and the latter part of the year was consequently passed at Bristol at Miss Tyler’s. Some extracts from his letters will sufficiently illustrate this period.

“For once in my life I rejoiced that Grosvenor Bedford’s paper was short, and his letter at the end. To suppose that I felt otherwise than grieved and indignant at the fate of the unfortunate Queen of France was supposing me a brute, and to request an avowal of what I felt implied a suspicion that I did not feel. You seemed glad, when arguments against the system of republicanism had failed, to grasp at the crimes of wretches who call themselves republicans, and stir up my feelings against my judgment.”*

To another of his Westminster friends at Christ Church he writes:—“Remember me to Wynn. . . . . I have much for his perusal; perhaps all my writings are owing to my acquaintance with him; he saw the first, and I knew the value of his praise too much to despise it. Wynn will like many parts of my Joan, but he will shake his head at the subject,

* Oct. 29. 1793.

Ætat. 19. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 189
and with propriety, if I had designed it for publication; but as the amusement of my leisure I heeded no laws but those of inclination. He will be better pleased to hear I have waded through the task of correcting and expunging my literary rubbish. There is something very vain in thus writing of myself, but I know that the regard which Wynn entertains for me, whilst he sees the vanity, will make him pleased with the intelligence.”*

Soon afterwards he again refers to the then all engrossing topic of the day—the French Revolution; the heinous enormities of which were beginning a little to disturb his democratic views. “I am sick of this world, and discontented with every one in it. The murder of Brissot has completely harrowed up my faculties, and I begin to believe that virtue can only aspire to content in obscurity; for happiness is out of the question. I look round the world, and everywhere find the same mournful spectacle—the strong tyrannising over the weak, man and beast; the same depravity pervades the whole creation; oppression is triumphant everywhere, and the only difference is, that it acts in Turkey through the anger of a grand seignior, in France of a revolutionary tribunal, and in England of a prime minister. There is no place for virtue. Seneca was a visionary philosopher; even in the deserts of Arabia, the strongest will be the happiest, and the same rule holds good in Europe and in Abyssinia. Here are you and I theorising upon principles we can never practise, and wasting

* To Charles Collins, Esq., Bristol, Oct. 30. 1793.

our time and youth—you in scribbling parchments, and I in spoiling quires with poetry. I am ready to quarrel with my friends for not making me a carpenter, and with myself for devoting myself to pursuits certainly unimportant, and of no real utility either to myself or to others.”*

In a letter to another friend, Horace Bedford, that heavy depression which the objectless nature of his life at this time brought upon him, is painfully shown.

“I read and write till my eyes ache, and still find time hanging as heavy round my neck as the stone round the neck of a drowning dog. . . . . Nineteen years have elapsed since I set sail upon the ocean of life, in an ill-provided boat; the vessel weathered many a storm, and I took every distant cloud for land; still pushing for the Fortunate Islands, I discovered that they existed not for me, and that, like others wiser and better than myself, I must be content to wander about and never gain the port.—Nineteen years! certainly a fourth part of my life; perhaps how great a part; and yet I have been of no service to society. Why the clown who scares crows for twopence a day is a more useful member of society; he preserves the bread which I eat in idleness. . . . . Yesterday is just one year since I entered my name in the Vice Chancellor’s book. It is a year of which I would wish to forget the transactions, could I only remember their effects;

* To Grosvenor Bedford, Nov. 11. 1793.

Ætat. 19. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 191
my mind has been very much expanded; my hopes, I trust, extinguished: so adieu to hope and fear, but not to folly.”*

Another letter to the same friend of a few days’ later date, is written in a somewhat brighter mood.

(With verses.)
“College Green, Bristol, Nov. 13. 1793.

“. . . . . I lay down Leonidas to go on with your letter. It has ever been a favourite poem with me; I have read it, perhaps more frequently than any other composition, and always with renewed pleasure: it possesses not the “thoughts that breathe and words that burn,” but there is a something very different from those strong efforts of imagination, that please the judgment and feed the fancy without moving the heart. The interest I feel in the poem is, perhaps, chiefly owing to the subject, certainly the noblest ever undertaken. It needs no argument to prove this assertion.

Milton is above comparison, and stands alone as much from the singularity of the subject as the excellence of the diction: there remain Homer, Virgil, Lucan, Statius, S. Italicus, and V. Flaccus, among the ancients. I recollect no others, and amongst

* Nov. 3. 1793.

their subjects you will find none so interesting as the self-devoted

“Among the moderns we know Ariosto, Tasso, Camoens, Voltaire, and our own immortal Spenser; the other Italian authors in this line, and the Spanish ones, I know not. Indeed, that period of history upon which Glover’s epics are founded is the grandest ever yet displayed. A constellation of such men never honoured mankind at any other time, or at least, never were called into the energy of action. Leonidas and his immortal band,—Æschylus, Themistocles, and Aristides the perfect republican,—even the satellites of Xerxes were dignified by Artemisia and the injured Spartan, Demaratus. To look back into the page of history—to be present at Thermopylæ, at Salamis, Platæa—to hear the songs of Æschylus and the lessons of Aristides—and then behold what Greece is—how fallen even below contempt—is one of the most miserable reflections the classic mind can endure. What a republic! What a province!

“If this world did but contain ten thousand people of both sexes, visionary as myself, how delightfully would we repeople Greece, and turn out the Moslem. I would turn crusader and make a pilgrimage to Parnassus at the head of my republicans (N.B. only lawful head), and there reinstate the Muses in their original splendour. We would build a temple to Eleutherian Jove from the quarries of Paros—replant the grove of Academus; aye, and the garden of Epicurus, where your brother and I would commence teachers; yes, your brother, for if he would
Ætat. 19. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 193
not comb out the powder and fling away the poultice to embark in such an expedition, he deserves to be made a German elector or a West India planter.
Charles Collins should occupy the chair of Plato, and hold forth to the Societas scientium literariorum Studiosorum, (not unaptly styled the ‘Society of knowing ones’); and we would actually send for —— to represent Euclid. Now could I lay down my whole plan—build my house in the prettiest Doric style—plant out the garden like Wolmer’s, and imagine just such a family to walk in it,—when here comes a rascal by crying ‘Hare skins and rabbit skins,’ and my poor house, which was built in the air, falls to pieces, and leaves me, like most visionary projectors, staring on disappointment. . . . . When we meet at Oxford, which I hope we shall in January, there are a hundred things better communicated in conversation than by correspondence. I have no object of pursuit in life but to fill the passing hour, and fit myself for death; beyond these views I have nothing. To be of service to my friends would be serving myself most essentially; and there are few enterprises, however hazardous and however romantic, in which I would not willingly engage.

“It was the favourite intention of Cowley to retire with books to a cottage in America, and seek that happiness in solitude which he could not find in society. My asylum there would be sought for different reasons, (and no prospect in life gives me half the pleasure this visionary one affords); I should
be pleased to reside in a country where men’s abilities would ensure respect; where society was upon a proper footing, and man was considered as more valuable than money; and where I could till the earth, and provide by honest industry the meat which my wife would dress with pleasing care—redeunt spectacula mane—reason comes with the end of the paper.

Yours most sincerely,
R. Southey.”

To a proposal from Mr. Grosvenor Bedford to join with him in some publication, something I suppose after the manner of the Flagellant, he replies:—

“Your plan of a general satire I am ready to partake when you please. Pope, Swift, and Atterbury, you know, once attempted it, but malevolence intruded into the design, and Martin Scriblerus bore too strong a resemblance to Woodward. Swift’s part is more levelled at follies than at vice; establish the empire of justice, and vice and folly will be annihilated together. Draw out your plan and send it me, if you have resolution for so arduous a task,—you know mine.

“I have plans lying by me enough for many years, or many lives. Yours, however, I shall be glad to engage in; whether it be the devil or not I know not, but my pen delights in lashing vice and folly.”*

The following letters will conclude the year. In the latter one we have a curious picture of the mar-

* Nov. 22. 1793.

Ætat. 19. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 195
vellous industry with which he must have followed his poetical pursuits.

To Grosvenor C. Bedford, Esq.
“Bath, Dec. 14. 1793.

“The gentleman who brings this letter must occupy a few lines of it. His name is Lovel: I know him but very little personally, though long by report; you must already see he is eccentric. Perhaps I do wrong in giving him this, but I wish your opinion of him. Those who are superficially acquainted with him feel wonder; those who know him, love. This character I hear. He is on the point of marrying a young woman with whom I spent great part of my younger years; we were bred up together I may almost say, and that period was the happiest of my life. Mr. Lovel has very great abilities; he writes well: in short, I wish his acquaintance myself; and, as his stay in town is very short, you will forgive the introduction. Perhaps you may rank him with Duppa, and, supposing excellence to be at 100, Duppa is certainly much above 50. Now, my dear Grosvenor, I doubt I am acting improperly; it was enough to introduce myself so rudely: but abilities always claim respect, and that Lovel has these I think very certain. Characters, if anyways marked, are well worth studying; and a young man of two-and-twenty, who has been his own master since fifteen, and who owes all his knowledge to himself, is so far a respectable character. My knowledge of
him, I again repeat, is very confined: his intended bride I look upon as almost a sister, and one should know one’s brother-in-law. . . . .

“What is to become of me at ordination heaven only knows! After keeping the straight path so long the Test Act will be a stumbling-block to honesty; so chance and providence must take care of that, and I will fortify myself against chance. The wants of man are so very few that they must be attainable somewhere, and, whether here or in America, matters little; I have long learnt to look upon the world as my country.

“Now, if you are in the mood for a reverie, fancy only me in America; imagine my ground uncultivated since the creation, and see me wielding the axe, now to cut down the tree, and now the snakes that nestled in it. Then see me grubbing up the roots, and building a nice snug little dairy with them: three rooms in my cottage, and my only companion some poor negro whom I have bought on purpose to emancipate. After a hard day’s toil, see me sleep upon rushes, and, in very bad weather, take out my casette and write to you, for you shall positively write to me in America. Do not imagine I shall leave rhyming or philosophising, so thus your friend will realise the romance of Cowley, and even outdo the seclusion of Rousseau; till at last comes an ill-looking Indian with a tomahawk, and scalps me,—a most melancholy proof that society is very bad, and that I shall have done very little to improve it! So vanity, vanity will come from my lips, and poor Southey will either be cooked for a Cherokee, or oysterised by a tiger.

Ætat. 19. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 197

“I have finished transcribing Joan, and bound her in marble paper with green ribbon, and now am about copying all my remainables to carry to Oxford. Thence once more a clear field, and then another epic poem, and then another, and so on, till Truth shall write on my tomb—‘Here lies an odd mortal, whose life only benefited the paper manufacturers, and whose death will only hurt the post-office.’

“Do send my great coat, &c. My distresses are so great that I want words to express the inconvenience I suffer. So as breakfast is not yet ready (it is almost nine o’clock), you shall have an ode to my great coat. Excellent subject, excellent trifler,—or blockhead, say you; but, Bedford, I must either be too trifling or too serious; the first can do no harm, and I know the last does no good. So come forth my book of Epistles.”

To Horace Bedford, Esq.
“Dec. 22. 1793.

“I have accomplished a most arduous task, transcribing all my verses that appear worth the trouble, except letters; of these I took one list,—another of my pile of stuff and nonsense,—and a third of what I have burnt and lost; upon an average 10,000 verses are burnt and lost, the same number preserved, and 15,000 worthless. Consider that all my letters* are excluded, and you may judge what waste

* Many of his early letters are written in verse; often on four sides of folio paper.

of paper I have occasioned. Three years yet remain before I can become anyways settled in life, and daring that interval my object must be to pass each hour in employment. The million would say I must study divinity; the bishops would give me folios to peruse, little dreaming that to me every blade of grass and every atom of matter is worth all the Fathers. I can bear a retrospect; but when I look forward to taking orders, a thousand dreadful ideas crowd at once upon my mind. Oh,
Horace, my views in life are surely very humble; I ask but honest independence, and that will never be my lot. . . . .

“I have many epistolary themes in embryo. Your brother’s next will probably be upon the advantages of long noses, and the recent service mine accomplished in time of need; philosophy and folly take me by turns. I spent three hours one night last week in cleaving an immense wedge of old oaken timber without axe, hatchet, or wedges; the chopper was one instrument, one piece of wood wedged another, and a third made the hammer. Shad* liked it as well as myself, so we finished the job and fatigued ourselves. I amused myself, after writing your letter, with taking profiles; to-day I shall dignify my own and Shad’s with pasteboard, marbled border, and a bow of green ribbon, to hang up in my collection room. . . . . The more I see of this strange world, the more I am convinced that society requires desperate remedies. The friends I have (and you

* A servant of his aunt’s, Miss Tyler.

Ætat. 19. OF ROBERT SOUTHEY. 199
know me to be cautious in choosing them), are many of them struggling with obstacles, which never could happen were man what nature intended him. A torrent of ideas bursts into my mind when I reflect upon this subject; in the hours of sanguine expectation these reveries are agreeable, but more frequently the visions of futurity are dark and gloomy, and the only ray that enlivens the scene beams on America. You see I must fly from thought: to-day I begin
Cowper’s Homer, and write an ode; to-morrow read and write something else.”